Playoff Watch: Saints Must Beat Giants On Sunday

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Of all the possible playoff scenarios floating around out there, the most important thing this weekend for the Green Bay Packers is this:

They need the New Orleans Saints to defeat the New York Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

If that happens, the Packers will still have hope for the NFC's final Wild Card playoff spot heading into the regular-season finale on Dec. 31 in Chicago.

But if the Giants defeat the Saints, the Packers are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

The reason the Saints-Giants game on Sunday is so important is this:

Should the Giants (currently 7-7) beat New Orleans, the best the Packers could do is tie them at 8-8 at season's end, and if that happens, Green Bay loses a somewhat complicated tiebreaker.

Under this scenario - which has the Giants beating the Saints but losing on Dec. 30 to the Redskins, while the Packers beat the Bears - and following the tiebreaker procedure, both teams would have identical 7-5 conference records.

That would force the use of one of two tiebreakers, depending on how many teams are tied for the final spot. After conference record, the next tiebreaker is common opponents, and with a win over the Saints, the Giants would beat the Packers in that category.

The next tiebreaker that could be used if more teams are involved is the "strength of victory" tiebreaker, which calculates the overall winning percentage of the teams that each team has beaten. The Packers currently trail the Giants by a significant margin here, mostly because of New York's victories against Philadelphia (8-6) and Dallas (9-5) this season.

Should the Giants get a win against a 9-5 New Orleans team on Sunday, they would establish an insurmountable edge in strength of victory, even if Green Bay chalks up a win next week against a currently 12-2 Chicago squad.

So if the Giants win on Sunday, the Packers are out of contention. If the Giants lose, the Packers are still alive.

How can the Packers get into the playoffs? There are various ways, but the most likely scenario is for all of the following to happen between now and Dec. 31:

--The Packers beat the Bears to finish 8-8;

--The Giants lose twice, to the Saints and Redskins, to finish 7-9;

--The Falcons (7-7) lose once, either to the Panthers or Eagles, to finish 8-8, but behind Green Bay in conference record (7-5 to 6-6);

--The Rams (6-8) lose once, either to the Redskins or Vikings, to finish 7-9; and

--The Seahawks (8-6) either win once OR the 49ers (6-8) lose once, so that Seattle wins the NFC West and is not in the Wild Card picture.

So this weekend, Packers fans should also cheer for the Panthers to beat the Falcons, for the Redskins to beat the Rams, for the Seahawks to beat the Chargers, and for the 49ers to lose to the Cardinals. Any or all of those would also help Green Bay's chances.

But if any of those results goes the other way, the Packers wouldn't be eliminated this weekend. It would just mean more would have to happen in Green Bay's favor in Week 17 in order to make the playoffs.

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